Sunday, March 27, 2011

song for the evening

Ani . . oh how I love you.

click click click . . .say cheese

I really enjoy taking pictures.  I find myself taking lots of pictures lately, not only with my wonderful camera, but also with my android phone.

You can find my pictures not only here, but on my tumblr photo blog:

Or on twitpic :

Sometimes the photos overlap, sometimes they don't.

And before I forget, one of my favorite blogs recently had a post about photography.  Thought I'd share it with you.  I found it very interesting and helpful.

Photography with Jessica: Aperture

the story of princess arabella

Abigail's princess basket came with a short story I wrote about a baker's daughter who becomes a princess after lifting a curse off of a royal family.  I printed up the story, then made a cover and bound it.  Since Abigail liked red and yellow -  I did decorate the book cover with some red and gold.  Since I am not that talented of a visual artist (my realistic painting/drawing skills need a lot of work), I found royalty free clip art to go with the story instead.  I think it worked out rather well.

finished abigail's basket

After another much work and effort, Abigail's birthday gift was finished.  Her aunt, who ordered the basket from me was very pleased with the finished product.  I hope she enjoyed it.

The letter that accompanied her basket.

baking bread and cookies

Haven't had much time to document my recent attempts at baking, so here you go . . .

Irish Soda Bread

Original recipe from Martha Stewart can be found here.


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
  • 2 cups golden or dark raisins
  • 1 1/2 scant cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and caraway seeds until well combined.
  2. Using a pastry cutter or two knives in scissor fashion, cut in butter until the mixture feels like coarse meal. Stir in raisins until evenly distributed.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, and baking soda until well combined. Pour buttermilk mixture into the flour-and-butter mixture all at once, and stir with a fork until all the liquid is absorbed and the mixture begins to hold together. It should resemble a rough biscuit dough. Using your hands, press the dough into a round, dome-shaped loaf about 8 inches in diameter. Lift the loaf from the bowl, and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and cream together. With a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the loaf. With a sharp knife or razor, incise a cross, about 1/2 inch deep, into the top of the loaf. Transfer to the oven. Bake, rotating halfway through, until it is deep golden brown and a wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center, about 70 minutes. Remove from oven, and transfer bread from the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool.

    ***NOTE: I always omit the caraway seeds.  Must admit, am not a big fan of them.

Chocolate Coconut bars (tweaked recipe)


  • 3 cups finely ground cookies (12 ounces), such as graham crackers or chocolate wafers, or a combination
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup pecan pieces
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly splash a 15-by-10-inch rimmed baking sheet evenly with water, then line with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together cookie crumbs, sugar, and butter until combined. Evenly press onto bottom and up sides of prepared baking sheet. Bake, rotating halfway through, until firm, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool, about 20 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle cooled crust evenly with pecans and chocolate. Pour condensed milk over the top, spreading to cover completely (do not let it drip over the edges). Sprinkle with coconut.
  4. Bake until coconut is toasted, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool completely. Trim edges, if desired, and cut into equal-size bars.

***NOTE: I usually add more coconut, chocolate and nuts than are called for, just as a preference.  There is no specific amount, I just eyeball it, and cover the tray. And I added one 8 oz bag of milk chocolate covered toffee bits.  It does make for a very dense and sweet cookie.

Double Chocolate Cookies (tweaked recipe)

Original recipe by Martha Stewart can be found here.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate (4 ounces coarsely chopped, 4 ounces cut into 1/4-inch chunks)
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Melt coarsely chopped chocolate with the butter in a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
  2. Transfer chocolate mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla; mix on medium speed until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in
    flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chunks.
  3. Scoop batter using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop; place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are flat and surfaces begin to crack, about 15 minutes. Transfer on parchment to wire racks. Let cool 5 minutes. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room
    temperature for up to 3 days.

Cook's Note

These rich cookies should seem a bit soft when you take them out of the oven. They firm up as they cool, so be careful not to overbake them.

***NOTE: I find that this dough base is great to expand on by adding nuts, etc.  This time around I added 3/4 of a bag of  mini chocolate chips  and my favorite: one 8 oz bag of milk chocolate covered toffee bits.
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